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MinnesotaCare Public Option Bill Advances in House

Would Allow More Minnesotans to Buy-In to Affordable Health Coverage


March 17, 2023

Saint Paul, Minn. – Today, the House Health Finance and Policy Committee advanced a bill to establish a MinnesotaCare Public Option (HF96/SF49). Lead author Majority Leader Jamie Long was joined by members from health, labor, farming, faith, immigrant, and arts organizations in support of the proposal. The MinnesotaCare Public Option would expand access to affordable health insurance by allowing more Minnesotans the option of buying into MinnesotaCare, paying a premium based on their income. The proposal expands eligibility to Minnesotans enrolled in the individual health insurance market, earning above the current MinnesotaCare income limit of 200% of the federal poverty line or $55,000 per year for a family of four. The bill also allows undocumented Minnesotans and small employers with 50 or fewer employees the option of enrolling in MinnesotaCare.

“In Minnesota, we believe everyone deserves access to healthcare regardless of their income, age, race, zip code or employment status, but we know too many Minnesotans still don’t have access to affordable health coverage,” Majority Leader Jamie Long said. “MinnesotaCare has been a successful public healthcare program for low-income individuals working in our state since 1992 … and is a nationally recognized model. The MinnesotaCare public option bill would simply increase health care access and affordability by giving more Minnesotans the option to choose the comprehensive, trusted coverage of MinnesotaCare. We must ensure everyone in our state can have affordable healthcare choices, and this bill I believe is an important step toward achieving that goal.”

Dr. Katherine Guthrie, a 43-year practicing physician of the Rural Organizing Project said, “As frontline family physicians we struggle every day to provide care that our patients are able to afford. I highly support the expanded MinnesotaCare option on behalf of my patients. We do not need to have Minnesotans dying for lack of access to healthcare.”

Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, a nonprofit based in St. Paul and Fergus Falls that works with 20,000 artists a year, said, “Like other small business owners and gig workers, artists are disproportionately self-employed and often have variable income making it difficult to access adequate health insurance. We hear over and over again that the primary barrier for these entrepreneurs is access to affordable and useful health insurance. Expanded access to MinnesotaCare would help many artists and creative workers make their lives more sustainable and access more reliable and affordable healthcare for themselves and their families. Passing a public option will help make sure that Minnesota is a place where culture, innovation, small businesses and local economies can thrive and grow.”

Kate Lynch, LPN, a member of SEIU Healthcare said, “All too often, caregivers like me watch our patients delay or skip necessary medical care because they can’t afford the high out-of-pocket expenses. I’m also a concerned mother. I have two adult sons … currently they are both covered under my health plan but soon they will age off. I worry that they won’t have good health insurance. This bill means parents like me can sleep a little easier.”

Gary Wertish, President of the Minnesota Farmers Union shared that the top issue coming forward for farmers is the high cost of health care. Wertish said he’s heard from farmers that, “If we really want to help agriculture, you can do something about health care – not only to help current farmers but to pass on to the next generation.

Rolando Juarez Orozco, a member with UNIDOS shared through an interpreter that he’s lived in the U.S. for 32 years and is an essential worker. In 2015, he was diagnosed with kidney failure, which requires dialysis three times a week. Orozco said, “The medical costs have been incredibly difficult since I don’t have health insurance. Not having health insurance means that I constantly have to choose between buying the many things that I need or paying to receive my dialysis, which is a very difficult decision to make since my life depends on both of those things. Politics should not interfere with people’s health or lives. Therefore it is necessary that HF96 is approved so that we’ll have access to health insurance.”

The MinnesotaCare Public Option would be paid for with state and federal funds, premiums, and cost-sharing. Premiums will be set by state agencies to ensure affordability and prevent sudden increases in costs.

An estimated 300,000 Minnesotans are uninsured. A disproportionate number of uninsured Minnesotans are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color and 17% are undocumented immigrants. The MinnesotaCare Public Option proposal would reduce the number of uninsured Minnesotans and provide an affordable option to individuals and families on the individual market often paying between $7,000 and $20,000 in deductibles, premiums, and out-of-pocket healthcare costs. The bill is advancing in the Senate and was laid over for possible inclusion in the Health omnibus budget. Learn more


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